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Does Dry Shampoo Cause Hair Loss?
Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Updated on January 4, 2024

Dry shampoo is the unsung hero of hectic mornings, as it makes your hair look fabulous even when you’ve had no time to wash it. That is why over 25% of women and an increasing number of men are estimated to use it [1].

If you’re leading an on-the-go lifestyle, dry shampoos are a quick way to refresh your locks, are convenient and can provide a boost of confidence. However, to preserve a healthy scalp, moderation is key in using this type of product on your hair.

Could dry shampoo turn from hero into villain and make your hair fall out with overuse? You will be relieved to know that if you are using it correctly, that is unlikely to happen. There is no direct scientific link between dry shampoo and hair loss. However, overusing dry shampoo may lead to some seriously bad hair days.

Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about:

  • What dry shampoo is and how it works
  • The effects that frequent dry shampoo use can have on your hair and scalp
  • The relationship between dry shampoo use and hair loss
  • Hair-friendly alternatives to dry shampoo
Table of Contents

What is dry shampoo?

Dry shampoo is the name given to a starch or alcohol-based powder that you can apply to your scalp in order to make it look cleaner, fresher, and more voluminous. While some ingredients may differ with product brand or formula, the most common ingredients dry shampoo contains are as follows:

  • Absorbent powders (starches, talcum or silica)
  • Anti-caking agents (magnesium stearate, calcium carbonate)
  • Polymers (polyvinyl alcohol or polyacrylate)
  • Volatile solvents (isobutane, isopentane)
  • Baking soda
  • Colouring agents
  • Fragrances
  • Conditioning agents (shea butter, aloe vera, glycerin)
  • Aerosol propellants (butane, propane)

It is a good idea to always check the ingredient list of the dry shampoo you buy before using them, to avoid potentially harmful chemicals. However, even when you’re being careful, accidental contamination with dangerous substances can still happen.

Since these won’t be found on the ingredient list, make sure you only use reputable brands which you trust when it comes to the hair products you use.

For example, despite a massive recall which took place in 2021 [3], a study conducted in 2022 by Valisure [4] on 148 samples from 34 brands of dry shampoos were found to contain benzene, a carcinogenic chemical linked to leukaemia and other types of blood cancer.

This dangerous substance is not intentionally added to the dry shampoo, as it serves no purpose. Researchers believe that the propelling agents used to push the product out of the spray bottle could be the source of accidental contamination [4].

How does dry shampoo work?

Dry shampoo is most often sprayed onto your hair roots (although there are also sprinkle-on options available). Then, gently massage the area until the powder is evenly distributed.

While your scalp needs some oil to keep it soft and supple and to keep your strands in good shape, too much of it can give your hair a greasy, flat look.

The starch in the dry shampoo quickly absorbs all the excess oil. This leaves your dome looking clean and refreshed, as it removes the tell-tale greasiness of dirty locks.

Depending on the formula of the product you are using, dry shampoo can also give your hair more volume, extra bounce or even a different shade of colour.

results of using dry shampoo
Before and after using dry shampoo [5]

Does dry shampoo cause hair loss?

There is insufficient research to link dry shampoo use directly to hair loss or thinning. However, it is a scientific fact [6] that an unhealthy scalp can indeed cause your hair to fall out.

Using dry shampoo frequently can make your hair seem constantly clean and glamorous. Unfortunately, the product residue will give it a sandy, encumbered feeling. 

Furthermore, together with the dirt, bacteria, and other harmful particles that build up on your scalp, in time, it can wreak havoc on your locks.

A dry, irritated, and dirty scalp is a breeding ground for infections which can be caused by bacteria, clogged pores, or hair follicles. Scalp infections are not only painful but can also lead to patchy hair loss.

example of folliculitis

General irritation and inflammation around the hair follicle roots can also accelerate shedding and slow down the rate of healthy hair growth, making your tresses seem thinner.

Furthermore, the alcohol contained in dry shampoo can dry out your strands, making them brittle and easy to snap, leading to hair breakage at the crown. In time, this hair breakage can result in low hair density and even bald spots.

hair fragments taken from hair pull test
Short rootless hair fragments taken from a hair pull test [7]

Can dry shampoo damage your scalp and hair?

Occasional use of dry shampoo is generally considered harmless, especially if accompanied by proper hair hygiene. However, overusing dry shampoo can indeed cause scalp problems, with serious consequences for your tresses. The most common of these include:

Can dry shampoo replace washing your hair?

Since this starchy powder is so good at making your hair look fabulous in just a few short moments, it has been given the honorary title of “shampoo”. However, the way it works is in no way similar to wet-washing your hair and it doesn’t provide the same benefits.

Dry shampoo only absorbs excess oil, giving your locks a temporary illusion of freshness. When using water and a traditional shampoo, your scalp is being truly cleaned. That means that the excess grease, dust, dead skin cells, harmful bacteria and other impurities which have settled on it are completely removed.

Washing doesn’t just make your tresses look amazing, it also keeps your scalp healthy and your hair in good shape.

Is it OK to use dry shampoo every day?

While using dry shampoo daily would certainly save a lot of time, dermatologists and hair experts recommend against doing so.

Dr. Nada Elbuluk, associate professor of clinical dermatology at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine declared for the Today show that dry shampoo is “really not meant to be part of somebody’s daily routine” [8]

On one hand, as shown above, wet washing should always remain an important part of your hair-care routine and should ideally take place several times a week. There are no healthy substitutes for that process.

On the other hand, using dry shampoo too frequently can lead to dryness and irritation of the scalp and damage to your hair strands.

The consensus among experts is that dry shampoo should not be used for more than 2 days consecutively (preferably only twice a week). Furthermore, it is recommended to take a break after 3 months of constant use [9].

How can you limit hair loss when using dry shampoo?

The best way to get results from your dry shampoo while at the same time minimising its negative effects on your hair and scalp is to maintain proper hair hygiene. In this case, that would imply:

  • Wet-washing regularly, even if you are using dry shampoo. This will remove the dirt and debris and keep your scalp clean and healthy.
  • Moisturising your hair regularly, in order to prevent excessive dryness.
  • Choosing organic dry shampoos, which don’t use irritating preservatives, fragrances, or carcinogenic substances.
  • Avoid heat styling your hair during periods of heavy dry shampoo use. Since your tresses may already be more brittle, applying heat to them would cause further breakage.

What are the best alternatives to dry shampoo?

If you would like to get the advantages of having fresh-looking locks in just a few moments but without some of the drawbacks of dry shampoos, we have your back. Here are some good options to choose from:

  • Corn or rice starch – it is the main ingredient in dry shampoo and also a safe, odourless, readily available household item. All you need to do is sprinkle a bit on the roots of your hair and massage softly. A makeup brush can also be used to spread it around easily.
  • Baby powder – this used to be the go-to hair solution when in a pinch long before the invention of dry shampoo. Only a teaspoon of it will make your locks look marvellous and also give them a sweet, innocent smell.
  • Blotting paper – while it is more common in schools than in hair salons, this very absorbent paper can help you out of a hair jam. Just keep one in your wallet and discreetly dab your hair roots (especially your parting) to give your tresses a fresher look.
  • Apple cider vinegar – normally used in skincare to reduce oil, this solution can also work for your scalp. Just mix a few drops with water and spray it onto your locks. The downside is that it may leave a lingering sour odour.

What if your hair loss is not caused by the dry shampoo?

Dry shampoo is unlikely to be at the root of your hair loss or hair thinning. So it may be time to see a specialist if you are worried about losing hair. Finding the underlying cause for hair loss is especially important for women since it can have a variety of causes.

If you have any concerns about your thinning hair, all you have to do is get in touch with one of the world-renowned trichologists at the Wimpole Clinic. They will not only offer you all the necessary tests to diagnose your hair loss but will also present a wide variety of treatment options, ranging from minimally invasive alternative treatments to state-of-the-art hair transplants.

Book a consultation now and be finally free of doubt.

Does Dry Shampoo Cause Hair Loss?, Wimpole Clinic

Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by Dr. Michael May (FRCS)Updated on January 4, 2024
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
Talk to a specialist ☎ 020 7935 1861.

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